The sign read “Baptist Church” and the arrow pointed down the road, one I had never been down before. I wondered at the designation.
My family roots are Baptist (among other things) and I had never heard of a Baptist Church being planted in the wilds of Renfrew County, or at least this part of it. Then again, I don’t know everything.
So we made the turn and went in search of the Baptist Church. It seemed the ecumenical thing to do, given that we had just come from an Anglican church and had driven by a Lutheran one without stopping. It was the Baptists’ turn.
There it was, far off the beaten path. A little 19th century church and cemetery. German Baptists, which may be why I hadn’t heard of it before. Like the Anglican church we had just come from, I suspect it doesn’t have weekly services. The nearest house is a couple of kilometres down the road; we didn’t see any others. It must have been quite the ride by horse and buggy to get there a century ago.
Those early settlers were hardy and determined. They had to be, to have the courage to tackle this stony ground. Canada used to give free land to immigrant farmers – but some lots were better for agriculture than others. Around here the top crop would be lumber, not vegetables.
When you think of Germany you think of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches, not Baptist ones, unless you are a student of religious history. Scholars know that Baptists in Germany are a small minority with a checkered religious history that includes some rather violent incidents. I had never thought of them coming to Renfrew County, though I knew there is a sizable German community there. Maybe the area was appealing not only because of the free land but also for the religious freedom.
The German influence in Renfrew County, where my Scottish ancestors first settled in 1846, is considerable. Thirty years ago, when I lived in Pembroke, the town had both a delicatessen and a couple of bakeries where you could be served in German as easily as English. Sometimes more readily. German culture remains strong in the area.
Looking at the adjoining cemetery, I noted that some of the names on the tombstones were the same family names as I had seen earlier in the Anglican cemetery several kilometres away, which had been our first stop on a “ghost town excursion. I wonder people made the switch from one church to another due to marriage ties or as a recognition that in an English speaking country it might be good to worship with the English speakers. I wonder when the church started having services in English (which I assume it does now when it has service – here were no times listed out front).
I’m sure somewhere there is a church history, or an elderly woman, an oral historian, who can tell me.
I wonder how I would go about finding her.